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of curiosity. These domestic specimens are often killed by cats, of which they seem a favourite food.*
We must now conclude the present article, although the multifarious groups of lizards, guanos, geckos, flying dragons, and many more besides, are still unnoticed. The history of serpents and batrachian reptiles must form the subject of a future essay. Few departments of zoology are of deeper interest, or more curious import, than that with which we have here been partially engaged; and there is none more likely to reward an assiduous cultivation of its fields, especially in foreign regions, by rendering an abundant harvest of discovery. Much is already known to naturalists, but far more remains to be ascertained, regarding the haunts and habits of many extraordinary creatures, of which we are as yet scarcely acquainted even with the external form.
*A point of interest in the geographical distribution of the chameleon relates to its occurrence in Sicily. We were not aware of its being an inhabitant of that island; as the fact is not mentioned in any work which we have seen. But a German naturalist, of the name of Grohman, has recently published a Nuova descrizione del Cameleonte Siculano, and we infer from the title that he at least believes it to inhabit the island. We have not yet received the work, and so cannot say whether the author states the fact from personal observation, or merely inferentially, from collections transmitted to his care. If in the latter case, we conceive his specimens were probably from the coast of Algiers, and were accidentally intermingled with the insular products. We are confirmed in this view by the opinion of M. Bibron, who resided for a length of time in Sicily, exclusively with a view to the study of its reptile tribes, and would scarcely have allowed the most curious creature in Europe to escape his notice. • Nous 'avouons,' he informs us, ne l'y avoir pas trouvée, malgré les recherches 'que nous fîmes dans ce pays pendant dix-huit mois, ni même avoir entendu dire qu'elle y existait par aucune des personnes auxquelles nous ' nous en sommes informés.' We have, moreover, applied for information on the subject to another distinguished naturalist, a native of Geneva, now in this country, and his answer is as follows- With respect to your enquiry, I should be inclined to believe that the chameleon is not found in Sicily, not only because I have never seen or heard of that rep'tile in the island, but because Dr Otto of Breslau, with whom I collected during many weeks at Messina, and who attended particularly to reptiles, never alluded to its being found in Sicily, although he put me in the way of finding many other genera of reptiles at Catania, Syracuse, Segeste, &c.; and I think that the very intelligent men I employed in collecting for me, would have mentioned so singular an animal. I have besides seen all the native naturalists of the country, and from none of them have I ever heard of the chameleon.'
How many live in caves and dens of the earth, in lone savannahs, and in wooded wildernesses, on which the eye of man has never rested! True it may be, as Solomon says, that of 'making many 'books there is no end;' but the accurate observance of the works of nature is calculated to furnish an inexhaustible stock of materials for books unhacknied in subject, and unfading in interest; and which may be perused without that weariness of the 'flesh' that made the Wise Man deprecate the too great multiplication of the instruments of study.
The work named at the head of this article contains the most ample and precise descriptions of the Reptile race which have appeared in recent times, and will form, when completed, a series of volumes indispensable to the library of the Naturalist.
ART. IV. On the Nature of Thunderstorms, and on the Means of Protecting Buildings and Shipping against the Destructive Effects of Lightning. By W. SNOW HARRIS, F.R.S. 8vo. London: 1843,
WHEN, in a day calm and serene, we look upwards to and around the region of the sky, the eye encounters no obstacle in its survey, and freely penetrates the depths of space to the remotest limits of its range. No terrestrial element dims the transparency of the pure ether,—no veil hides the face of the God of Day; and the tremulous ray of the minutest and most distant star finds an easy path across the unfathomable void. The blue vault which enwraps us alone indicates the diffusion of attenuated matter; but its cool and spotless azure, like the breast of the dove, embosoms only innocence and peace. Even the sounds of the material and the busy world are thrown back in subdued murmurs from the sky; and in this general repose of nature, and throughout the abyss where sparkle distant worlds,' the sharpest scrutiny can descry no element of change or of mischief. While the verdant earth, indeed, remains firm beneath his feet, man anticipates no descending danger, and the upturned eye looks but for blessings from above.
This pure and peaceful character of the firmament we contemplate, is but the normal condition which marks the rest and equilibrium of the elements. Unseen and unfelt there encom passes our globe a girdle of air, as translucent as empty space, and so thin and impalpable, that we neither feel its pressure nor experience its resistance. Even when we inhale it, and live by
its inhalation, we are not sensible that we have drawn into our system any thing that is material. Yet is this invisible, and almost intangible element, instinct with mysterious properties, and charged with superhuman powers. The green and fermenting earth projects into it its noxious exhalations; the decaying structures of organic life let loose their poisonous ingredients; and even living beings, while appropriating its finer elements, ungratefully return the adulterated residue into the ethereal granary. Thus does the pabulum of life become a polluted and deleterious compound. The noble organizations of living nature languish under its perilous inspiration; while disease and pestilence either decimate the people, or pursue their epidemic round, demanding at every stage their hecatomb of victims.
When the earth, revolving round its axis, has received from the sun its daily measure of light and of heat, different zones on its surface, and different portions of its mass-the aqueous expanse, the sandy desert, the rankly luxuriant jungle, the rocky mountain crest-all give out their hoarded caloric in unequal and commingling streams. The homogeneity and equilibrium of the elastic medium is thus speedily destroyed; the cold and dense air rushes into the more heated and rarefied regions; and the whole atmosphere around us becomes agitated with coinciding or conflicting currents. Here the zephyr breathes its softest murmurs, awakening the Eolian lyre to its most plaintive strains, and scarcely turning the twittering aspen leaf on its stalk; there the gale sweeps along, howling amidst the darkened forests, bending the majestic pines in its path, and hurrying the freighted bark to its port; and yonder the tornado cuts its way through the mightiest forests, making sport of the dwellings and strongholds of man, and dashing to the bottom of the deep the proudest of his floating bulwarks.
But while the heated air thus sweeps, in gale or in tempest, over the waters of the ocean, or rests in peace on its glassy breast, it carries upwards, by its ascending currents, the aqueous vapours it has exhaled. The denser element reflects in all directions the light that falls upon it, and diffused in mists, or accumulated in clouds, the atmosphere teems with opaque masses, which conceal the azure vault, and obstruct even the fiercest rays of a meridian sun. Here they float in majestic dignity, the aerial leviathans of the sky, veiling and unveiling the luminary which gave them birth. There they marshal their rounded fleeces, or arrange their woolly ringlets, or extend their tapering locks-now shining like the new-fallen snow-now flushed with the red of the setting sun; but ever in pleasing harmony with the blue expanse which they adorn, and the purple landscape which they crown.
Over this lovely portrait of aërial nature, the curtain of night falls and rises but to exhibit scenes of varied terror and desolation. While the solar heat is converting into vapour the water and moisture of the earth, electricity is freely disengaged during the process. The clouds which this vapour forms exhibit different electrical conditions, though the electricity of the atmosphere, when serene, is invariably the same. Hence the descent of clouds towards the earth, their mutual approach, the force of atmospheric currents, and the ever-varying agencies of heat and cold, convert the aërial envelope of our globe into a complex electrical apparatus, spontaneously exhibiting, in a variety of forms, the play and the conflict of its antagonist powers. As St Elmo's fire, the slightly liberated electricity tips the yard-arms and mast-tops of ships with its brilliant star, its ball of fire, or its lambent flame. At the close of a sultry day, and above level plains, the opposite electricities of the earth and the air effect their reunion in noiseless flashes of lightning,-illuminating as it were, in far-spread sheets, the whole circuit of the horizon, and the entire canopy of its clouds. At other times the same elements light up the Arctic constellations with their restless wildfires-now diffusing their phosphoric flame, and flitting around in fitful gleams, as if keeping time to the music of the spheres-and now shooting up their auroral columns, advancing, retreating, and contending, as if in mimicry of mortal strife.
But these various displays of the power of electricity, however much they may startle ignorance and alarm superstition, are always unattended with danger; and form a striking contrast with the full development of its unbridled and unbalanced fury. When, after a long drought, the moisture of an overloaded atmosphere is accumulated in massive clouds, animated by opposite electricities and driven by antagonist currents, the reunited elements compress, as it were, in their fiery embrace their tenements of sponge; -and cataracts of rain, and showers of hail, and volleys of stony meteors are thrown down upon the earth, desolating its valleys with floods, and crushing its vegetation by their fall. Even in our temperate zone, but especially under the raging heats of a tropical sun, this ferment and explosion of the elements is more terrific still. As if launched from an omnipotent arm, the red lightning-bolt cuts its way to the earth, now transfixing man and beast in its course; now rending the smitten oak with its wedges of livid fire; now shivering or consuming the stormtossed vessel; now shattering cloud-capt towers and gorgeous dwellings-nor even sparing the holy sanctuary, the hallowed dome, or the consecrated spire. And no sooner has the bolt crushed its victim, and the forked messenger secured his prey, n the peals of its rattling artillery rebound from cloud to
cloud, and from hill to hill, as if the God of Nature were pronouncing the perdition of ungodly men, and as if the Heavens, waxed old as a garment,' were about to be wrapped up in the fervent heat of the elements. During this rehearsal of the day which is to come as a thief in the night,' heaven seems to be in fierce conflict with earth-man the sufferer-and God the avenger. The warrior turns pale ;-the priest stands appalled at his altar; the prince trembles on his throne. Even dumb life, sharing the perils of its tyrant, is stricken with fear. The war-horse shakes under his rider; the eagle cowers in his cleft of rock; the sea-bird screams in its flight, and universal life travails with one common dread of the giant arm which thus wields the omnipotence of the elements.
That phenomena such as these, so destructive of life and property, should have been imperfectly studied and described by the ancients, cannot fail to surprise us; but our surprise becomes somewhat abated, when we consider how little has been done in modern times, after electricity became a science, either in studying its destructive agencies, or in providing against their aggressions. The carelessness of individuals in protecting their property against lightning has doubtless arisen, in many cases, from a distrust in the resources of science; but it may have originated also in a suspicion, that some unwise minister might tax this species of protection as an insurance against fire; or, perchance, punish it as an insidious invasion of the window duty, through a light borrowed from above.* But however plausibly we may account for the scepticism and improvidence of individuals, we cannot make the same apology for the ignorance and negligence of public men, entrusted with the property and wielding the powers of the state. If we must not expect to have, like the Romans, our Ædiles plebleii minores, and still less their Ediles cereales,† to keep the poor from starvation, why should we be deprived of Ediles majores, who, in their curule-chairs on chariots, might look after our palaces, our temples, and our public monuments ? Rather than that the obelisks of our heroes and sages should be dislocated or thrown
*A hundred years hence, it will, perhaps, be scarcely believed, that a government existed in the nineteenth century which prevented, by taxation, the light of heaven from entering our dwellings, and the free air from ventilating and cleansing them; and which also prohibited by impost the possessors of property from insuring it against destruction by fire!
† Hibernice, keepers of corn in bond.'.